Bond Insurer Radian Group Is 'Finding Its Footing'

Tickers in this article: MTG RDN

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Radian Group(RDN) received two price-target increases from equity analysts and an upgrade from a debt analyst.

FBR Capital Markets analyst Steve Stelmach focused on improved 2013 guidance in raising his price target to $8 from $6, as the bond insurer's management said its risk-to-capital ratio should remain below 25:1. Radian also cited operating profitability and a growing business.

Despite increased competition, Stelmach says the mortgage insurance industry is poised to grow. The growth comes partly from price hikes by the Federal Housing Administration aimed at slowly reducing the government's role in mortgage insurance. Also, Stelmach argues private insurers are increasingly focused on writing new business rather than mitigating losses left over from the housing bubble.

"Radian seems to be on the cusp of finding its footing," Stelmach writes, though he reiterated his "market perform" rating, arguing the stock has come too far too fast. Indeed, Radian shares have more than doubled in the past six months.

Radian did get an upgrade on Monday from Creditsights, which raised its recommendation to "market perform" from "underperform." That applied only to the company's bonds, however, as Creditsights analysts Rob Haines and Eric Axon argued Radian will be able to pay its debt through at least 2017.

The note also indicated the analysts prefer Radian's bonds to those of MGIC Investment Corp.(MTG) , another mortgage insurer. In an email, however, Haines wrote that while Creditsights does not have a price target on the equity, "it looks expensive to us. There has been a major run up in price over past year ... this is still a company that has not made money in years. Trading at almost book value seems pretty overdone to us."

Radian also saw its price target lifted to $6 from $5 by Susquehanna Financial Group, which maintained a "neutral" rating. Susquehanna's report couldn't be obtained.

Radian shares were up 0.9% to $6.57 on Tuesday.

-- Written by Dan Freed in New York